Coconut nutrition facts
Coconut is a mature fruit of the cocos nucifera palm. Since the ancient times the nut holds unique place among the millions of inhabitants in South-East Asia, and Pacific islands. It is one of the most sought-after ingredients in the kitchen as it is found in almost every delicacy prepared in these parts of the world.
Cocos nucifera belongs to the large palmaceae family of palm trees. Coco palm grows well under tropical climates. The palm requires moist, sandy, well-drained soil and flourishes well all along the saline rich coastal regions.
The coconut palm is an un-branched, erect, tall growing tree that may reach more than 100 feet and has a lifetime of about 75 to 100 years. It may take 4-5 years and longer time in some species to begin their yield. Several hundred species of coconut palm grown all over the tropics, so taste and flavor of water thus vary according to saline content, distance from sea shore, mainland etc.
In a season, a single coconut palm may produce 20-150 mature nuts. The fruit is almost spherical to oval in shape and measure between 5-10 inches in width. Its rough outer husk is light green in color, becoming gray as the nut matures. The husk is about 1-2 inches in thickness and made of tough fibers. Underneath the husk, there is a woody shell enclosing inner edible kernel (endosperm). Mature fruits, which are just harvested, contain some amount of sweet water inside the central hollow cavity surrounded by the white meat (endosperm). The fruit with its shell, kernel, and water constitutes a “coconut” in commercial set-ups.
Health benefits of coconut
Coconut is a very versatile and indispensable fruit for most people under the tropical belt. It is a complete food is rich in calories, vitamins, and minerals. An average size nut weighing 400 g edible meat and water provides almost all the daily-required essential minerals, vitamins, and energy for a medium sized person.
100 g kernel consists of 354 calories. Much of this comes from the fats and protein. Although, its meat is disproportionately high in saturated fats on comparison to other common edible nuts, coconut has many bioactive compounds that are essential for better health.
The important saturated fatty acid in the coconut is lauric acid (1:12 carbon fatty acid). Lauric acid help rise HDL cholesterol levels in the blood. HDL is a high-density lipoprotein, which has beneficial effects on the coronary arteries by preventing vessel blockade (atherosclerosis). Medicine recommends high HDL to total cholesterol levels in the blood for the same reason.
Coconut water is a very refreshing drink to beat tropical summer thirst. The juice is packed with simple sugar, electrolytes, minerals, and bioactive compounds such as cytokinin, and enzymes such as acid phosphatase, catalase, dehydrogenase, peroxidase, polymerases etc. Altogether, these enzymes aid in digestion and metabolism.
Coconut oil extracted from the dry nut is an excellent emollient agent. It is used in cooking, to help scalp hair nourishment, in pharmacy and in medicines.
Research studies suggest that cytokinins (e.g., kinetin and trans-zeatin) in coconut water showed significant anti-ageing, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-thrombotic effects.
- The kernel is excellent source of minerals such as copper, calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, and zinc.
It is also a very good source of B-complex vitamins such as folates, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and pyridoxine. These vitamins are essential in the sense that body requires them from external sources to replenish.
Coconut meat and water contains a very good amount of potassium. 100 g of fresh meat contains 356 mg% or 7.5% of daily required levels of potassium.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||33.49 g||167%|
|Dietary Fiber||9 g||24%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.300 mg||6%|
|Vitamin C||3.3 mg||5.5%|
|Vitamin A||0 IU||0%|
|Vitamin E||0.24 mg||2%|
|Vitamin K||0.2 mcg||<1%|
|Carotene, beta||0 µg||--|
Selection and storage
Mature coconuts are readily available round the season in Asian stores in the USA. You may find partially husked, processed kernel in cans, wholesome totally dried (copra), coconut milk, cream, dried-powder etc, in these stores. Fresh tender nuts for the purpose of refreshing drink or in cans can also found in these stores.
Coconut is a very stable fruit. Dry coconuts in the husks can be stored for months in cool, dry, and humid-free place. However, once cut open, fresh mature meat may deteriorate rather quickly if kept open for few hours at room temperature. Its water and meat contain simple sugars attract fungus as well as bacteria that attack the kernel. Opened raw kernel and grated coconut should be placed in the refrigerator to prevent decaying.
Coconut milk is available in cans or as a powder in the markets. If using the powder, reconstitute it with cold water as described on the packet.
Preparation and serving tips
There are several methods practiced to cut open the whole coconut fruit. Only expert person with enough skills of plying the tough outer husk should employ in the task. The nuts are usually de-husked with the help of huge machines in the industries. At the households, it is plied using sharp sickle, portion by portion to expose underneath kernel with the spherical to ovals shaped shell. In India and other Asian countries, the nut is broken by hitting against hard surface with great force to crack it open. Its water is usually discarded. The meat is then separated from its attachment to shell using a sharp spatula or knife. The meat is then cut into chunks, slices or grated using special household knife, or grater.
Here are some serving tips:
Slices or chunks are eaten as a snack. The kernel can be eaten in many ways. In one of the special recipe in South India, where small slices or grated coconut is mixed with jackfruit slices, honey, sugar, and banana and served as dessert.
Finely grated and dried coconut powder is used in the preparation of variety of savory dishes in India and other Asian region. Coconut chutney is a thick paste prepared with grinding together grated coconut, roasted peanuts, green or red chilli peppers, mustard seeds, curry leaves, garlic, and salt and used as a dip with rice cake (idli), poori (puffed fried thin bread) etc.
Dried coconut powder is found special place in mouth-watering sweet dishes like burfi, cake, chocolate, pies, custard (kheer) etc in almost all parts of South Asia, and East Asian regions.
Fresh tender coconut water can be made special drink adding lemon slices, mint leaves, orange zest etc.
Coconut milk is added to flavor variety of food preparations. Fish and seafood curries cooked in milk is one of a special recipe in many parts of Indonesia, Philippines, India (Kerala,), Malaysia and Sri Lanka. In Indonesia and Malaysia, rice is steamed in milk with herbs and spices (nasi uduk) and served with chicken or beef curry.
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